Brayford Swan Families and Guests

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After the awful weather of the past week (and today on Saturday), Friday (yesterday) was actually a very nice day and I was glad to bring my camera to work. So during my lunch break I decided to pop out with the X-T1 and XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS lens to see if I could get any good photographs. I had an ulterior motive as well as I wanted to see if the settings I had changed around the autofocus had improved things; I have been reading quite a bit about the settings to use and whilst there are a few differences of opinion there are a few settings everyone agrees on.

On my way out from the office, one of my colleagues (Graeme who is a bit of a Twitcher), informed me that he saw a family of Mute swans swimming around on the Brayford Wharf pool yesterday (Thursday). I immediately assumed that the Swan with the precariously sited nest had not only had some eggs but they had hatched too. Cygnets can swim in the water when still only a few hours old. On my way out I did see a single Mute Swan with 4 cygnets but they disappeared behind one of the many boats before I could get a decent shot (I did see them later though).

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However, not far from them I saw two Mute Swans swimming around together performing some sort of “dance”, I assumed that this was a Courtship dance. However it is more likely a polite ‘fight’ dance, in which two male swans will swim in unison, making them self appear as large as possible in order to size each other up and decide who is the dominant male. Usually one of the swans will admit defeat and swim away before violence is necessary to settle the dispute. Thanks to Miry for correcting me on this.

I captured a short video of this too:

This Mallard duck was preening himself nearby on the jetty:
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As I walked around there were a number of Mute Swans near the old boat entrance to the Brayford:
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I have been told that this will be demolished to make way for a footbridge across the nearby railway line which is why the man-made floating pontoon was affixed to the island in the middle of the Brayford, here you can see a Greylag goose making use of this:
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This is a shame as not only do the Swans make use of the old entrance but other species do too, I see the odd Moorhen on there occasionally:
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As I ventured around the Brayford pool, I saw that the Precarious SwanTM Nest + Swan was still present. I was hoping to if the swan had any eggs (I videoed a swan turning her eggs last year, you can see this here – I apologise for the audio). The Swan was maintaining the nest:
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One type of bird that I am used to seeing in this part of the Brayford was the Muscovy Duck but I hadn’t seen any this year; however, a bit further around near one of the entrances to the Marina I did see this one:
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Not far from him (her?) was another Moorhen:
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Earlier in this blog post I was talking about the Swan and 4 cygnets and from this vantage point I saw them again, they were quite photo-shy and nearly swam out of view behind another boat but this time I was prepared and managed to get a nice photo:
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In the distance I could see a second family (with 6 cygnets) not too far from when I started so I decided to venture back instead of continuing my walk around the pool. During this I came upon a third “family” only this time it was a Swan with a single cygnet. This is very unusual, but it could be the father (Cobb) with the first cygnet; sometimes the mother (Pen) will remain with the eggs to incubate them whilst the Cobb looks after the hatched cygnets:
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On the way back, the swan on the nest had finished maintaining it for now and was watching everyone pass by, as usual I kept my distance and made sure she could see where I was:
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Once I was back (not far from where I started) I was pleased to see that the Swan with the 6 cygnets was still around not far from the jetty:
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The cygnets were very fast swimmers and swam away from their parent quite a bit, they were also very vocal and made a very cute “cheep” noise:
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The problem is that there are a large number of other swans (and other birds) around and whilst I was watching a pair of other swans got too close, the cygnets were very scared so the parent saw off the other swans. Here is a video of the encounter:

So yet again the X-T1 performed as expected and the continuous autofocus (AF) was better too so the settings that I had obviously made a difference (I see a post about the settings and how to enable them coming). Don’t get me wrong the AF does not match the continuous (or Servo) focus of the current cream of the crop cameras such as Canon’s EOS 5D-III/1Dx or Nikon’s D3/D3s/D4 but the gap is getting smaller. I also found this was the first time that I stopped missing not having a Canon EOS 5D-MkIII to hand; which by the way is still an awesome camera. I stopped missing the weight some time ago.

Updated on 8th June 2014: Correction around dance of the swans and a few typos.

One thought on “Brayford Swan Families and Guests

  1. mirymosey

    What wonderful photos! They’re beautiful birds. I’m accustomed to seeing the black variety though (living in Melbourne, Australia).

    Regarding the ‘courtship dance’, it is my understanding that this behaviour is actually a kind if polite ‘fight’ dance, in which two male swans will swim in unison, making them self appear as large as possible in order to size each other up and decide who is the dominant male. Usually one of the swans will admit defeat and swim away before violence is necessary to settle the dispute.

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